When we daydream about international vacations, a trip to Europe is usually at the top of the list. With multiple countries using the same currency and a relaxed customs system, it’s a great way to see a few different countries in one trip. Even better – your trip doesn’t have to drain your savings.

Here are a few tips to plan a European vacation on a budget:

Travel during non-peak times
Summer is considered “in season” for European travel. Planning a vacation from October through April means you’ll pay less for airfare and hotels – and you’ll see shorter lines at attractions. Don’t let extra frequent flier miles tempt you to book in the summer – look for the trip that will save you the most money overall.

Avoid a rental car
Beyond the costs associated with renting a vehicle, you would also have to pay for parking, including at your hotel. In most big European cities, you can easily use public transportation to get where you need to go. The best part about skipping the car rental? You don’t have to worry about driving on the wrong side of the road!

Be smart about your money
Transaction fees can add up quickly and probably aren’t included in your original trip budget. Use credit cards when you can, as they will give you the best possible exchange rate but you will need to research which cards are the best for foreign travelers.

If you can’t avoid cash, take money out of an ATM rather than using traveler’s checks or changing currency at a local bank. The ATM will give a better exchange rate, but be prepared for your bank to charge a withdrawal fee. Avoid excessive fees by researching ahead of time where the best ATM rates are. You can also make a few, larger withdrawals and then stow your cash in a safe place.

Understand tipping etiquette
In the U.S., we know its standard to tip 15 to 20 percent on a restaurant bill –not the case across the pond! Check the menu and your bill to determine whether a service fee is included in your meal. If it isn’t, a five to 10 percent tip is standard. In fact, 10 percent is often considered generous. Tipping is viewed as a bonus for good service or a simple way to get the bill up to a round number. When in doubt, ask your concierge.

Be an adventurous eater
Rather than sticking with the usual tourist traps, consider finding a small café located a couple of blocks away from the main thoroughfare. While you should budget at least one nice dinner into your trip planning, consider eating your biggest meal at lunch. Not only is it a healthier choice, but a prix fixe lunch special will be much less expensive than a full dinner.

One last tip – purchase your city maps in Europe. Generally, maps of large European cities are about twice as expensive when purchased in the U.S.

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